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In Conversation with DANIEL HALASZ

Daniel Halasz – Camp 165 Watten, 2009, archival inkjet print, 50x60cm

Daniel Halasz (b.1981) is a Hungarian artist who graduated with an MFA Photography at Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design, in Budapest, in 2011. He is currently based in New York, but has worked all over the world including the UK, Russia and Uganda. His early work examined, unearthed and re-evaluated the past, to place the present in a wider dimension of time and space, with a particular consideration of overlooked local, histories. In 2009 he was awarded First Prize for the Google/Saatchi Photography Prize for images of a secret prisoner of war camp in the Scottish Highlands and the European Commission’s Year of Creativity and Imagination Award, for his portfolio "Imaginary Diary", that used the genre of the postcard as a reminder of the connection of the future world to that of the past.


His work continues to confront global, local and personal boundaries and reimagines his subjects. In 2015 he was awarded Honourable Mention for the International Photographer of the Year Award for a series of images, exploring national identity, placing himself within ethnic Udmurt family portraits, as an ironic reflection on how some Hungarians pride themselves on the strength of their national ethnic identity as Finno-Ugric people, and in 2016 he was a semifinalist for the Museum of Sydney’s Head On Portrait Prize for ‘The Pearl of Africa’, portraits of children, taken during his time in Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda, that are able to reveal a personal relationship and tell a story about the effects of global and local cultural, sociological and political interaction. In 2010 his Homo Politicus series responded to the political ramifications in the general election, which led to the collapse of the Hungarian Socialist Party and rise of the fascist and anti-semitic discourse within mainstream politics. This marked a change in his approach to photography as a tool to examine and evaluate history in the making. The images of political posters erasing the political colours and campaign promises of the politicians removes their authority and validity, so that the viewer can perceive them and judge them as they might an ordinary person. We have invited him to revisit and reframe his Homo Politicus series, alongside European referendum campaign posters, in the form of posters and postcards. By exhibiting in this way, these images become performative, they offer a double take of reality to further challenge to the Brexit debate. Take one, is of the politicians that are foreign, unknown to many English citizens. Hungary is known to be the country profiting most from the European Union (1). Take two, these are a warning, Hungary is also the country most dissatisfied by the European Union, the warning is of the rise of right wing nationalist parties that in the wake of postcrash austerity are gaining momentum across Europe and the world and which discourse, has not been lost in the EU referendum debate. Maisie Linford


Daniel Halasz – Homo Politicus, 2010, inkjet print, 35x50cm


Giulia Colletti: Your practice tends to explore the contemporary Hungarian society with reference to political and social issues. In his essay Europe and Its Others, Boris Groys writes: “in recent years we have been hearing European politicians say over and over that Europe is not just a community of economically defined interests but something more —namely, a champion of certain cultural values that should be asserted and defended. But we know of course that in the language of politics ‘something more’ as a rule means ‘something less’.”(2) Dániel Halász: Even before reacting to Boris Groys’ assertions, it is important to decide what is meant by the word “Europe”. The union? If so, what about Norway and Switzerland? The Continent? If so, where are its boundaries? In the Urals in Russia? The Ukraine? What about Turkey? I hope to think about Europe as a region that does not have strict borders and is open to a broad socio-political, economic, geographical and cultural-religious definition. It is frightening to observe how people can become so protective in times of economic crises to even consider quitting. And even then, what would happen? It is not yet possible to move parts of the continent to let’s say, next to the Caribbean. In fact, history has repeatedly shown that it is disastrous to separate the land by drawing up national borders and separating people on any grounds. However, I have to say that people should be careful stating things such as “certain values should be defended”, as taken out of context, the phrase could be put into the mouth of a Brexit supporter and opposer as well. Diversity, openness and acceptance are the keywords for a happy future. G. C.: Hungary is facing a conservative politics that in the last years has twisted the country cultural scene into a political machine – I think, e.g., about public money exclusively allocated to the MMA, the Hungarian Academy of Art. How this nationalistic approach, which is spreading across European nations, has undermined artistic communication and cultural exchange? D.H.: It is true that the Hungarian government is reversing history and is using methods that were popular in the dark times of fascism and communism, namely trying to use art as a communication tool for their propaganda. In this agenda, there is one officially accepted, institutionalized way of thinking of the world that is supposed to be communicated in a certain way, a way controlled by the MMA. So this is what we see at first glance, but the picture below the surface is somewhat more promising for the time being. There are a number of statesponsored institutions that do promote and exhibit experimental, fresh, innovative, even politically critical artistic language. Also, artists have started to


organize by themselves and create completely independent, self-funded initiatives, which is certainly a positive and welcome phenomenon, creating strong bonds in the community, and even a sense of a flourishing alternative art scene. Maisie Linford: With reference to Brexit debate, why do you think Britain would want to leave the EU and what input do you think artists could have on improving the electoral process? D.H.: Artists potentially have the power to show social and political phenomena from a twisted perspective thus letting people realize that there is never a single truth about an issue. To put it in an idealistic way: artists can potentially open the eyes to new ways of seeing. (1)http://www.politico.eu/article/hungary-profits-most-from-eu-but-doesnt-appreciate-it-european-council-on-foreignrelations-euroskeptic/ (2) www.monumenttotransformation.org / europe-and-its-others-boris-groys.

Note: This interview is an excerpt from an art catalogue made in the frame of EUROPHONIA Pop-up Exhibition. EUROPHONIA is a curatorial project by Giulia Colletti and Maisie Linford, documenting and highlighting the voices and images of the 2016 referendum, when Britain decides to stay in or leave the European Union. Check it more >> europhoniapopup.tumblr.com

Europhonia: Daniel Halasz in conversation with Giulia Colletti and Maisie Linford  

Note: This interview is an excerpt from an art catalogue made in the frame of EUROPHONIA Pop-up Exhibition. EUROPHONIA is a curatorial pro...

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